On my bicycle ride into work this morning I stopped to take this picture. Nature is full of metaphors and I’m always particularly intrigued by fog. Today, I don’t have any main idea I want to write about in essay form but rather a collection of thoughts around what it means to be present—inspired by a foggy morning.
How we spend our days is how we spend our lives. ~ Annie Dillard
I’m convinced that when we view life as a series of ends that we hope to meet, our way of being is at risk. Life is the sum of trillions of present moments. Too much emphasis on an end, a goal, or an accomplishment can rob us of the present moment and result in the expenditure of our vital energies toward something that doesn’t even exist—and may never exist. This isn’t to say that we don’t have bad days or unpleasant moments, or that we shouldn’t consider the future; but rather, a reminder that today is part of the grand collage of life. Our life is the cumulation of days lived.
The past is but an echo, a ripple, of what currently is. We don’t move away from the past; the past moves away from us as a fog of present moments previously lived.
How you are today is how you will have been tomorrow. To echo Annie Dillard, how we spend our present moments is how we spend our lives.
When we let the present moment become a means to an end, we may neglect a richer way of being in the world because our eyes are set on something else—like a person constantly looking past you while talking to you. I once saw an interview with a group of men and women in their 80s and 90s. Of the ones who had positive experiences with their parents, the main word they used to describe their parents was “kind”. Of course what we do in life matters and carries weight, but when my friends and family are living the last years of their life, the details of what I’ve done and said in my life will fade into an abstract fog and they may simply carry with them a vague sense of whether I was a kind person or not. You cannot accomplish kindness. You cannot buy kindness. You cannot earn a degree in kindness. You can only live it moment by moment.
The future, like a dense fog, is only visible so far before it becomes enveloped in the unknown.
The future is not a railway, but a matrix of possibilities and potential.
A meaningful life does not lie in a set of things or circumstances up ahead, it lies in the depth of this present moment, and every present moment that follows. The soil of our being is where all life stems from. By properly attending to it we can have a greater hope of bearing rich and meaningful fruit. The soil of our life is this present moment.
Tend to it well.
Photo by Lance Baker